Mere minutes after several future doctors and scientists rushed the Stanford Stadium field to celebrate their improbable win against the Oregon Ducks, a good friend of mine texts me, “The Pac-10 is beating each other up, not good for their rep.”
Not an all too uncommon statement by proverbial Pac-10 haters but this buddy happens to be a Cal graduate student and a moderate Pac-10 supporter.
As much as it stung, this text message rang with a reverberation of truth.
The Pac-10 gets the bad wrap of being an unstable conference, mainly because their favorites always seem to stumble and lose to unranked teams that are much further down their conference standings.
But could it be possible that more teams within the Pac-10 are actually getting stronger, finally creating more parity within a scarily powerful conference?
Could it be that USC will have over half of their conference contending with them for the Pac-10 crown in the near future?
Stanford’s upset this year against Oregon was predicted by many largely because of their unimaginable upset two years ago against USC. The Cardinal have seen consistent improvement under Jim Harbaugh over the past three years and that now infamous win seems less of a fluke and more of a warning of what was yet to come.
Stanford extreme progress has this team primed to receive some serious buzz this offseason for the Pac-10 crown, even with the potential loss of Toby Gerhart.
With the win over Oregon, Stanford became bowl eligible for the first time since 2001 and after the recent offensive displays by freshman quarterback Andrew Luck the future of the Cardinal seems to get brighter with every passing game.
While a loss to Stanford in the past may have been equivalent to a loss to Washington State this year, the tables have obviously turned thanks to an influx of sensational talent on the Farm.
But the Cardinal are not the only Pac-10 team that has a plethora of young talent eager to lead their team to the top of this conference filled with potential champions.
The Pac-10 has three running backs ranked in the nation’s top 25 in rushing yards and neither of them wears a profile of a Trojan on their helmet. The conference also has two quarterbacks that rank in the top 20 in quarterback rating and once again neither of them play for the offensive genius that is Pete Carroll.
Out of those five Pac-10 players, only one of them will not return next year. And out of those returning, all but one has two or more years of eligibility left.
These upsets of USC, Oregon, and even Cal over the past few years doesn’t necessarily mean the Pac-10 is so mediocre that even their “bottom feeders” have a decent chance of winning a conference game on any given Saturday.
It could very well mean that the middle of the pack in the Pac-10 are becoming just as good as these consistently heavy favorites.
Haters will claim that a weak USC tanks the legitimacy of this conference since they are the only Pac-10 team to consistently make serious noise outside of the conference. But the list of high-powered offenses sitting within the Pac-10 should have teams around the league shaking in their cleats.
Whether it is Oregon State marching out the quick footed Jacquizz Rodgers, Cal pounding the ball with the explosive Jahvid Best, Stanford relying on the abnormally accurate arm of Luck, or Arizona leaning on the flame thrower Nick Foles, these teams are ready to make an even louder statement once bowl season comes rolling around.
The Pac-10 is the first conference this year to have six teams solidify bowl eligibility and depending on how the rest of the dominoes fall they could possibly have eight teams vying for those all-important bowl bids.
That’s 80 percent of this conference that could make a postseason appearance. Not too shabby.
But for those who still think that the Pac-10 isn’t doing their reputation any good by beating up on each other, don’t think of these high profile losses as chinks in the armor but rather impressive battle scars against a long list of champions ready to prove that the west coast knows how to toss the pig skin.
Don’t expect the other BCS conference teams to vocally express worries just yet, but they could be singing a different tune come late December early January when their offenses are forced to put up point totals north of 40 to bring home a bowl victory.
The years of the Pac-10 being a one-team conference are way behind us. With five teams currently sitting in the AP’s Top 25 and with seven teams seeing time on the list this year, it’s hard to believe that this conference still gets the Rodney Dangerfield Award year in and year out.
Just watch any match up this weekend and you will see that this conference is much more legit than many of you may ever want to admit.
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